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The Union of People

The Union of People

by David G. Duggan
November 22, 2021

"Your people will be my people."

So replied Ruth (Ruth 1:16) to her mother-in-law Naomi on the road to Judah from Moab. Both were widows and disconsolate, but Naomi was an Israelite and Ruth a Moabite in that tribal era. With her husband and two sons, Naomi had gone to Moab during a famine. Her husband died and her sons took Moabite wives, Ruth and Orpah. But her sons died too and Naomi was bereft of support in her old age. Before Ruth's declaration, Naomi asked her whether she could have more sons to care for her daughters-in-law.

This passage is routinely read at weddings and I've wondered if those reading it really know the backstory. A man is not linking his destiny to his wife's family, nor a woman to her husband's. A daughter-in-law is linking her future to her mother-in-law. Rarely has that been done in the 3,000 years since Ruth uttered those words. If I know anything about mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, it is that they pretty much want to have nothing to do with each other.

Still, God's purpose of persons linking across generational, ethnic and geographic lines stays with us. Ruth's aspiration that Naomi's people be hers is more than her hope for abundance in a strange land: it is a commitment to be faithful against the odds. Few people, whether in-laws or not, are willing to make that commitment.

Moabites were the descendants of Lot's drunken union with his eldest daughter (Genesis 19: 37) and bore that badge of shame. Lot was Abraham's brother and a dozen generations later, after Abraham's descendants endured slavery in Egypt, the Exodus and 40 years in the desert, Ruth married a son of that line. Does this cure Lot's sin of incest? Are Ruth's descendants worthy of the lineage that gave us Jesus 40 generations afterwards?

On a cross outside Jerusalem those 40 generations later Jesus told His beloved Disciple John: "Behold your mother," and told His mother: "Behold your son," forever uniting the Divine to humanity. (John 19:26-27) "Your people will be my people." The generations who have heard this since have declared that the people of Judah, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are their people.


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